Updated: 23-Aug-2001 1991

[ '45-'49 | '50-'59 | '60-'69 | '70-'79 | '80-'89 | '90-'99 | '00- ]
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The movement towards democracy in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe proceeds rapidly but the first indications appear that it will be an uneven process. By May 1991, signs of the break-up of Yugoslavia and the onset of civil war in major parts of the country become unmistakable. Croatia and Slovenia declare their independence but elsewhere conflict flares up. Unprecedented contacts take place between NATO and the representatives of the newly independent states of Eastern Europe to ensure their future cooperation but at the same time as the shadow of the Yugoslavian conflict spreads over Europe, a dark shadow looms over the Soviet Union itself.

In mid-August 1991, a coup against President Gorbachev threatens to reverse the process of reform and democratisation in the Soviet Union. Gorbachev dismantles the military leadership, disbands the Communist Party and the repressive KGB security system and hands power to the newly independent republics.

Autumn 1991. Further sweeping cuts in nuclear forces are underway, including reductions in NATO's sub-strategic nuclear weapons in Europe by 80 percent. Allied leaders meeting again at Summit level in Rome issue a new Strategic Concept reflecting their intention to streamline NATO forces, undertake further arms reductions and reorganise NATO's Military Command Structure.The development of cooperation with other countries is a central part of the new Concept. Unlike earlier generations of NATO's strategic planning documents, the new Concept is made available to the public.

The Rome Summit also announces the creation of the North Atlantic Cooperation Council or NAC-C, the forum which will serve for the next five years as the focal point for cooperation between NATO and its new Partners.

The NAC-C meets for the first time on 20 December 1991, the day on which the Soviet Union ceases to exist. By the end of the year Mr. Gorbachev has formally relinquished his functions as President of the Soviet Union and Supreme Commander-in-Chief of Soviet Forces. A Commonwealth of Independent States is created, joining former constituent republics of the USSR in a new form of security structure.